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Digital Drills: Intranet Instruction Comes of Age


By Anne Rawland Gabriel


In just five words international training guru Wally Bock explains why business        
are flocking to online instruction: “You save lots of money.”


“Let’s start with paper costs,” suggests Bock of Bock Information Group, Inc.
“And, let’s consider the trucking industry, where drivers must display a warning
placard on their rig whenever they’re carrying hazardous cargo.”


With traditional training, drivers must learn what substances, if any, they’re
likely to encounter and the corresponding warning placard to put on their
trucks. “In the paper world, you teach what’s most common to your business
and give each of your drivers a manual for everything else,” says the North


In the intranet world, however, a trucking company can keep this information
on central computers and update it with a few keystrokes. Then, when a driver
who normally hauls blue jeans is asked to carry fire extinguishers, he simply
logs in to the company intranet on any computer, enters “fire extinguishers”
and receives detailed instructions regarding the correct placard for carbon


Who passed the test?

Now consider record keeping. “Perhaps your employees are required to obtain
safety, technical or other certification,” offers Bock. “Online training and
testing not only cuts out the data entry and review process, it also reduces
mistakes because the computer automatically records that Joe Smith has taken
Course A and passed the test.”


“You can also see who hasn’t taken Course A or who didn’t pass the test,” he
continues. “And, you can spot trends – if virtually everyone misses question
two on an OSHA exam, it’s obvious an adjustment should be made.”


Improving Output

Then there’s productivity. “With classroom-based training you lose productivity
to travel and absence,” Bock stresses. “Whether it’s on-site or outsourced,
Jane’s being paid to get from here to there. Plus, she’s unavailable when John
suddenly needs assistance with a client.”


Moving one-on-one instruction to an intranet offers dramatic advantages. For
instance, while a new clerk learns how to process invoices, her supervisor can
complete other tasks. If she’s unclear about a step, the system will patiently
reiterate the information until she ‘gets it.’ And, when she has questions she
can consult the online FAQ before interrupting others.


No limits

So how does online instruction differ from computer-based training or CBT?
“Whether it’s a CD or a diskette, CBT depends on portable media,” says
Bock. “This means space and timeliness are always limitations.”


On the other hand, an intranet allows for unlimited access to the latest
information because you can link to any computer – internal or external. “And,
employees don’t have to determine which disk to obtain or remember to take it
with them,” Bock notes. “Whether they’re on the road or they’ve just put the
kids to bed, they simply log in and get what they need.”


Knowledge vs. behavior

To tap into intranet training, first identify which of your business functions are
suitable for web-based instruction. “In general, use intranets for knowledge as
opposed to behavior,” Bock says. Rote learning, diagnostic situations or
continuing education are appropriate. Interpersonal skills, such as sales, are not.


Next, consider your business-critical needs. “Look at the training you’re
already doing and what you ought to be doing,” asserts Bock. “Then begin
implementing the things that are vital to the success of your business.”


An easy place to start is orientation for new employees. “You can save
resources by simply putting forms and instructions on an intranet,” he points


As you proceed, avoid reinventing the wheel. “Odds are good that 80 percent
of the types of training you need, someone else has already done,” assures
Bock. An off-the-shelf training program can often be adapted to fit.


Most importantly, remember that intranet instruction isn’t a wave of the future.
“If you’re going to be competitive today, you must do more training than ever
before,” Bock emphasizes. “Web-based instruction is a powerful, cost-
effective way to get the job done.”


Formerly an executive with a leading software company and founder of
an award-winning marketing communications firm, author Anne Rawland
Gabriel now concentrates on writing and marketing communications
consulting from her offices in the Minneapolis/St. Paul metro area. She
can be reached at Mail@GetGabriel.com.



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